SEOUL, May 29 (Korea Bizwire) – The growing number of feral dogs in South Korea is sparking a national debate on how they should be dealt with, with one municipal government going so far as to call for violent stray dogs to be labeled as harmful wild animals and exterminated, putting itself on a collision course with animal rights groups.
A local council in North Chungcheong Province has called for feral dogs to be labeled as harmful wild animals after reports of growing threats and damage against farm animals have become increasingly common.
As the local council plans to submit a proposal to the Ministry of Environment (MOE), the move is expected to decriminalize the killing of wild dogs, which, under current laws, is punished by a one-year prison sentence or a 10 million won fine.
Earlier this month, two farms in Okcheon County in North Chungcheong Province lost a total of 27 chickens to an attack by wild dogs, following another case back in February in the same county where a ten-month-old cow was mauled to death by three wild dogs.
Despite growing concerns over attacks by feral dogs, the local government and the Ministry of Public Safety and Security are facing criticism over their failure to tackle the problem appropriately and protect the community.
“Though wild cats are subject to the law regarding the protection and control of wild animals, which permits their capture using traps and tranquilizer guns, dogs have to be rescued and protected as there is no mention of ‘wild dogs’ in the current law,” an Okcheon County official explained.
“People often think of smaller dogs such as Chihuahuas and poodles when they think of stray dogs, but many of them are larger breeds and are vicious and of bigger build,” the official warned.
Park Un-gap, the team leader of safety prevention at Yokcheon Fire Station, said, “Wild dogs are extremely swift and have a great sense of awareness, which keeps them away from traps. As they stay away from humans, well outside the range of a tranquilizer gun, it’s almost impossible to capture them.”
The MOE, however, says the prospect of decriminalizing the poaching of wild dogs is unlikely.
“Even though the poaching of feral cats is legal, it is becoming a rarity as more humane approaches including Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) are preferred,” an MOE official said.
Animal rights groups also hit back.
“We can curb the population of stray animals through responsible adoption, and humane methods such as setting up extra-large scale traps in the most vulnerable areas should be considered instead,” said Jo Hee-kyung, the head of the Korean Animal Welfare Association.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)